Herald on MP staffing

May 1st, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A New Zealand First MP is the subject of a complaint to Parliament’s Speaker over the employment of a person who lives at the same property.

Queenstown resident David Simpson has raised questions about the nature of the relationship between MP Denis O’Rourke and , whom Mr O’Rourke employed after the 2011 election. MPs are not allowed to employ their partner, husband or wife in or outside Parliament.

A spokeswoman for Parliamentary Service, the in-house watchdog, confirmed Speaker of the House David Carter had “referred an issue to us and we are looking at it, but that’s between us and the Speaker’s office. I’m not going to say any more than that”.

She said there was nothing in its files to indicate that Mr James was Mr O’Rourke’s partner.

Living at the same property doesn’t mean they are partners. I’ve lived with many people who are not partners.

There is probably no one single test for whether or not two people are partners. Obviously one aspect is whether or not the relationship is platonic. But I imagine that the best way to assess is to use the same criteria that WINZ uses in determining the same thing. I’d look at stuff such as whether they go out to functions together, do they cook for each other, shop together. 

Mr O’Rourke also said rules around MPs employing their spouses or partners were “something we looked at very closely after the election … . and we understand the situation”.

“Stephen is definitely not my partner, he lives at a separate address in Christchurch.”

Mr O’Rourke and Mr James were listed as living at the same address in the 2011 electoral roll, but Mr James is listed as living at a separate address in last year’s roll.

However, Herald investigations reveal both addresses apply to the same property – Mr O’Rourke’s home. …

On Tuesday Mr James emerged from the Mt Pleasant property to check the mailbox. He was later seen inside the property but refused to answer the door.

Mr O’Rourke later confirmed Mr James lived at the same property.

“Yes, there’s a flat attached to my home with separate bedroom and kitchenette and an ensuite and so on. It’s separate accommodation.”

Online records show Mr O’Rourke’s property is listed as a single dwelling. Mr O’Rourke later said Mr James lived in “a room that’s been separated from the house and used as a bedsit”.

“It’s not a formal subdivision … I did upgrade it a couple of years ago and that’s the same time that we got the separate letterbox.”

He reiterated that he and Mr James were not partners. “We’re deliberately not partners and whatever it takes to convince people we’re not partners, that’s what we’ll do. We don’t intend to be partners, we’ve agreed not to be partners, we don’t do the things that partners do, so we’re not partners.”

I don’t think O’Rourke’s comments help him. Saying that we are deliberately not partners is a strange thing to say. If someone is not your partner, or someone you have a relationship with, then you don’t need to make a deliberate decision not to be partners. When I have a flatmate, we never have a discussion about being partners or not – because there is no need.

So O’Rourke’s comments do not help him. I don’t know if James and O’Rourke are partners but a friend tells me they have been seen out together regularly around Wellington. Again that doesn’t mean they are partners – it is not a single test. But O’Rourke’s comments and the changing of the addresses does make it look like they do have some sort of relationship and have deliberately tried to structure it so James can be employed.

And regardless of the legality, I think it is unwise to hire as a staff member someone whom you live with. The complications are significant if something goes wrong. How do you reprimand them if they stuff up, if you are living with them?

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21 Responses to “Herald on MP staffing”

  1. Colville (2,261 comments) says:

    Do they fu*k each other?

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  2. CJPhoto (219 comments) says:

    I dont think you want to know the answer to the last question you ask. You dont know what they keep in the back room!

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  3. ChardonnayGuy (1,199 comments) says:

    Messrs O’Rourke and James are entitled to their own privacy in this context. Has anyone considered the possibility that the two gentlemen may be somehow related by connections other possible spousal status?

    [DPF: They have privacy - up until the point one of them is put on the parliamentary payroll for the other.]

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  4. kowtow (8,326 comments) says:

    They can have the privacy in the world.

    But don’t play games so us the taxpayer fund a deception or break the rules.

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  5. secondcumming (92 comments) says:

    As I read this then, they both actually live in the same property, but one is using the rear entrance.

    Or have I got this wrong?

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  6. justmy opinion (8 comments) says:

    The Council probably needs to consent under RMA if two households. But “bedsit” would suggest share facilities such as kitchen and bathroom. Someone want to check the Council’s RMA and building records?Explanation that lives at separate address because two letterboxes is somewhat less than full and frank.

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  7. edhunter (538 comments) says:

    So they’re just friends with benefits?
    Previously I’ve flatted with a workmate (different depts very little contact while at work) for 5yrs, was amused after moving out to find the rest of the street referred to us as the two gay guys at No.4. So sure it’s entirely possible to for two guys to live & work together & for people on the periphery to put 2 & 2 together & get 5, but from the periphery this sounds bloody dodgy.

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  8. Tictactoe (32 comments) says:

    The key question, I think, to ask is does James pay rent or board?

    It would be fairly easy to sort it out using a monthly bank statement – otherwise the whole thing looks fairly odd.

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  9. bringbackdemocracy (426 comments) says:

    When Winston’s around
    Corruption abounds

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  10. CJPhoto (219 comments) says:

    How long have they been living together – 3 years? Relation property act may apply – do they have a relationship property agreement?

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  11. iMP (2,366 comments) says:

    I lived about 100m from this house, and it is about (ironically) 100m from Speaker David Carter’s Port Hills office (with whom this official complaint is laid).

    The issue here really is: O’Rourke’s weaseling.

    • At one point he says James lives at a separate address (this is untrue).
    • He says they are not lovers. We’ll find out if that was/is true.
    • Both men supplied a new separate address to the Electoral Office in terms of Electoral Registration to vote.

    This seems to me, to suggest a deliberate attempt to falsify or mislead the Electoral Commission, as they did/and do live in the same house they did earlier, but now have separate letterboxes on separate facing streets.

    They are also – apparently – in business together.

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  12. freethinker (688 comments) says:

    O’Rourke was a lawyer in Christchurch and a pretty obnoxious sort of person so he will be used to employing deceitful tactics.

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  13. iMP (2,366 comments) says:

    The Herald photo shows James collecting O’Rourke’s mail from O’Rourkes mailbox, thru O’Rourkes front door. So, this pretence about a separate bedsit, separate address (#19 St Andrews Hill Rd), or James not living in the same house, is a complete lie.

    Why did James refuse to answer the door on O’Rourke’s side? What does he have to hide?

    Even O’Rourke is confused about where he and James live:, variously (from formal documents)

    19 St Andrews Hill Rd
    18 St Andrews Hill Rd (across the raod)
    18 Te Awakura Tce (around the corner).

    So Mr MP and your Parliamentary Staff person, which is it? This is clear evidence of electoral fraud.

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  14. Jack5 (5,055 comments) says:

    What sort of due diligence did NZ First’s leader, Yul Grinner, do into O’Rourke before selecting him as a list candidate?

    Does NZ First have enough potential candidates to pick and choose?

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  15. Keeping Stock (10,301 comments) says:

    Were Winston and Tommy Gear ever partners, or did Winston just live there?

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  16. Changeiscoming (184 comments) says:

    “How do you reprimand them if they stuff up, if you are living with them?”

    Doesn’t seem to slow my wife down a tad.

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  17. Reid (16,290 comments) says:

    O’Rourke was a lawyer in Christchurch and a pretty obnoxious sort of person so he will be used to employing deceitful tactics.

    That explains a lot. Some lawyers seem to hallucinate the letter is the whole and only answer to any question at all, regardless of substance and regardless of whether it stinks. That (in the mind of some lawyers), is apparently, irrelevant.

    In addition, just because you’re a lawyer doesn’t mean you’re terrifically brainy.

    It would appear these two traits have combined in O’Rourke to produce an appallingly obvious perfect political storm just waiting to be uncovered and picked over in all its gory detail.

    Sadly, while the news cycle will obsess over Williamson for the next few days, Winston will have an opportunity quietly to work with O’Rourke to engineer a solution which will, you watch, eliminate the highly damaging and tremendous s**tstorm fallout that may otherwise have splashed all over the glorious NZF machine.

    Part of Winston’s core constituency, you see, don’t take at all kindly to such queer goings on, so it could have had quite the macro effect on the NZF vote. But instead, miraculously, another scandal breaks on the very same day which quite removes that terrible eventuality from the immediate horizon.

    What a “coincidence.”

    In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.

    Franklin D. Roosevelt

    Now if you were Winston, who owes what, to whom?

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  18. Tictactoe (32 comments) says:

    Funny how the first 5-10 mins were dominated by the Williamson issue, but no mention afterwards at all was made regarding this. It would have shown Peters to be a huge hypocrite who needs to get his own house sorted after what he said about Williamson and Judith Collins.
    Don’t think it’ll be coming at all in the rest of the news…

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  19. bringbackdemocracy (426 comments) says:

    It’s the 99% of NZ First MP’s that give NZ First a bad name.

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  20. igm (1,413 comments) says:

    Oh my God, has Winnie now allowed rainbows into his circle. This drops his party down the list for older conservatives . . . they don’t want these types.

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  21. Pete George (23,481 comments) says:

    It looks like O’Rourke has been set up here. He has been pushed to deny he has any relationship with James.

    Now ..

    Parliament’s Speaker is refusing to disclose whether a New Zealand First employee has travelled at the expense of the taxpayer, after the MP he lives with, Denis O’Rourke, denied the two are partners.

    Yesterday Parliamentary Service confirmed it was investigating a complaint into O’Rourke, who entered Parliament in 2011, and Stephen James, an out of Parliament staff member for the NZ First transport spokesman.

    Under the directions of the Speaker, David Carter, MPs are not allowed to employ their partner, husband or wife. O’Rourke has denied that James is his partner, reportedly saying that the two live in different parts of a single house.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/9999622/NZ-First-travel-claims-queried

    O’Rourke can’t employ a partner, but he says James isn’t a partner. But a non-partner can’t travel at the taxpayer’s expense.

    If it is proven that James travelled at the taxpayer’s expense he has snookered himself.

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